If you’re anything like me then you’ll find modern life pretty god-damn hard. The constant struggle against that internal negativity eating away at all of the positive decisions that you try to make; the barrage of other peoples perfect lives and aspirational dreams shared through the media; the judgement and criticism that people give so openly in this era of no-consequence free speech.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll take this negativity and apply it to yourself. I’m not successful enough; I’m not healthy or fit enough; I’m not wealthy, nor do I own all the trendy stuff that people want; I don’t have a car; I don’t have hundreds of friends; I’m not in a stable long term relationship; I don’t have own my own house; I haven’t had a holiday in over 6 years… This constant measuring against others is so tiring, and yet it’s always there as a part of my depression.
Some days I can feel it building like a storm on the horizon. Dark clouds blocking out the light as my vision narrows and all I can see is everything that I’m not. All of the wrong choices and bad decisions that I’ve made come back to me in a flood of uncontrollable regret. If only I’d have done this instead. Why didn’t I say that? I shouldn’t have cancelled on my friends that day. My overly logical brain can see every negative decision that brought me here today, sat in this rented room at my second hand laptop as I live through a blizzard of questions about where I should be, yet justifying why I’m not with my self-proclaimed unworthiness.
So what can I do during these times when the dark storms grow? I get up; I go to work; I come home and cocoon in the duvet with a movie or a book; I wake up and repeat. Routine is amazing. It means that when you are incapable of thinking, when all the noise of the modern world becomes unbearable, you can just put your headphones in and tick each box, one after another and make it through the day. It’s not living, but it works.
It might not be what I had in mind when I was younger, this cold realism of the grown-up world where the adults with all their confidence and money define what it is to be alive. When I was a kid I saw myself as a modern day Captain Planet, all clad in green Lycra and fighting the corruption and evil that is destroying the Earth. Unstoppable. Righteous. Successful… Now the only time I wear Lycra is to battle the hoards of angry cars as I cycle to work, arriving at the other end cold and wet, ready to face my day saving the world by proxy through charity admin.
I’ve recently changed jobs within the organisation. I was in charge of a team of 50 volunteers, all with their own varying problems and issues much like mine. Over the last 2 and a half years they have helped me more than any medication or counselling ever could… They accepted me for who I am. Together we built an environment that allowed us all just to be.
No judgement; no requirement; only support and guidance. With that, we had the best shop in the region. A group of friends in a pseudo self-help scenario where we all somehow managed to run a really organised business.
Outside of work though, away from the routine, a storm was building that I couldn’t avoid. So I took all my strength and focused on moving to Head Office… because that’s what successful people do, right?!
A good idea? I’m not sure just yet. My reserves are low and I don’t have my support group to go to every day. The echoes of laughter and constant joking insults drift around the quiet office behind the clatter of keyboards. I wonder if my new colleagues know that I’m struggling. Can they sense it? Can they see the scars? What do they think of me? I feel like an outsider, like I don’t deserve to be here. I’ve gone back to being the quiet one… The storm never reached me fully this time, but the grey skies did. There’s an annoying constant drizzle which dampens my spirits every day.
Yet I feel strong. Stronger than I have since I had my breakdown.
Yeah I’m a little low at times; I’m not as confident as I could be; yeah I’m not as fit as I was. I’ve moved away from my friends, but I did it for the right reasons. I might not be able to see it all the time but if you’d have asked me 3 years ago if I would be capable of getting another job, let alone relocating to HQ, I’d have laughed in your face and then run back to the safety of my duvet.
Each morning I put my watch on. A leaving gift from my volunteers, it reminds me of where I’ve come from and the strength that I now have because of them. Underneath it is a small tattoo, the Norse symbol for new beginnings, a permanent reminder of the dawn, that each day we get another chance. Slowly I’m building my defences against The Black Dog. Each little success is a new weapon, a new torch in the darkness.
I am alive… but more than that, I am beginning to live again.
If you feel like you need to talk to someone, call CALM on 0800 585858 or use our web chat service. It’s free, anonymous and confidential, and you’ll speak to trained professionals. And don’t worry, it won’t show up on your phone bill.